The J-1 exchange visitor visa is for applicants who are visiting the U.S. temporarily to participate in an approved program for the acquisition of skill and knowledge before returning home to their home country. Unlike other nonimmigrant work visas, J-1 applicants are not sponsored by employers; they are sponsored by certain programs approved by the U.S. Department of State.

The visa is authorized under some specific occupations, which include teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or receiving graduate medical education or training. Typically, qualified exchange visitors are mostly:

  • Professors or scholars
  • Research assistants
  • Students
  • Trainees
  • Teachers
  • Specialists
  • Au pairs
  • Special visitors
  • Camp counselors

J-1 Visa Documents: A Checklist

The J-1 application process involves three parties – the applicant, the program sponsor, and the United States government. As an applicant, you must file and complete several forms as well as present relevant documents as supporting evidence to each of the claims you make in your application. The following are the required documents for your J-1 visa application process.

j1 visa documents

DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility

This is the first step in obtaining a J-1 visa. After you have been accepted by your program sponsor, your information will be entered into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is a U.S. government database.

SEVIS will process your information and generate a PDF format of the DS-2019, which will be forwarded to you through your program sponsor. Before signing the DS-2019, do a thorough check to be sure all of the information on it is correct and that every section is correctly completed. Your date of birth and the spelling of your name must be the exact way they appear in your passport.

DS-7002 Training/Internship Placement Plan

This is an official form from the Department of State. The DS-7002 has four sections for information about you and your sponsor. The first section must contain basic information like:

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • Program sponsor
  • Program category
  • Occupational category
  • Current field of study/profession
  • Years of experience in the field
  • Type of your degree or certificate
  • Date awarded or expected
  • Training/internship date

The second section is basically about the name, location, and website of your sponsoring organization. In section three, you are to review the terms and then sign with a date. It contains two parts: one is for you, and the other is for your sponsor. The fourth part contains your placement plan.

It is for your sponsoring organization supervisor to fill in the specific development program you are to undergo and outline how you will accomplish the objectives set for the program.

DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application

This will be submitted online as part of your J-1 visa application process. The confirmation page with the barcode is one of the items you will need to bring to your visa interview. Each J-1 visa applicant—including children—must have a DS-160. You are to complete and submit the form online before you can book an interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. While filing your DS-160, you will be asked to choose a place where you will later attend your visa interviews.

A Valid Passport

You will need to present a valid passport with a validity period that will not expire for at least six months validity beyond the period of stay for your J-1 program. If you are planning on coming with any family members, each person must have his or her passport with the same rules for the validity period.

Recently Taken Photograph

One recent photograph picture of you must be either uploaded when filling your DS-160 or brought for the interview. The photo must meet these DOS requirements for passport photographs.

Evidence of Ties to Your Home Country

You must be able to prove that you have binding family or monetary ties in your home country, and you have the intention of returning home after completing your program. There is no general rule on how this evidence is filed due to varied circumstances among individual applicants. However, each applicant must be able to convince the consular officer that they will be ready to return to their home country.

Demonstrate Financial Ability to Pay

You may also be asked to present proof showing that you have the financial ability to pay for the program. Some of the documents you may need to present as proof include bank statements, scholarship paperwork or financial aid (if any), documentation from a sponsor, account statements, and tax returns. If your program is to be sponsored by a family member, make sure you provide relevant documents supporting such claims.

Learn more about your J-1 visa and taxes

J-1 Visa Interview

If you are a J-1 visa applicant between the ages of 14 and 79, you will attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate as part of your visa process. Applicants between the ages of 13 and 80 may not need to attend an interview unless they are specifically asked by the consulate. It is essential to prepare well before the interview day and to bring all your documents with you. Failure to bring all the required documents including the proofs of payments and ties to your home country may lead to the cancellation of your interview without any refund of your DS-160 fee of $160.

Documents Required for J1 Visa Interview

  • Evidence showing your financial, family and social ties to your home country
  • Financial documents you and your attorney believe are sufficient to provide evidence that you can fund your expenses during your study time
  • Bank statements/bank books
  • For dependents being sponsored by someone else, proof of the relationship to the sponsor like a marriage or birth certificate; financial proof they can support you like bank statements
  • Transcripts, certificates or diplomas that show scholastic preparation

If you present all the documents and evidence as required, you stand a good chance of having a quick and issue-free interview. The questions vary depending on your background and your J-1 program. However, they will likely be basic questions that you won’t have difficulty answering if you prepare ahead.

Learn more about the J1 Visa Interview.

Apart from questions concerning your program, you are likely to be asked about your previous visits to the U.S. (if any). In addition, the consular officer may want to know what you plan to do after returning home from the program.

VisaNation Immigration Law Success Stories Graphic 2

Waiver of Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement

As part of U.S. immigration law, some categories of J-1 exchange visitors are subject to return to their home countries for at least two years after completing their exchange visitor program before they are eligible to return to the U.S. You are likely to fall under these categories of exchange visitors if:

  • Your program was directly or indirectly financed by a foreign government or the U.S. government for the purpose of exchange.
  • You have come for graduate medical education or training; and
  • The skill or knowledge you are coming to develop is in a field that your home country requested to be in the DOS-designated skills list.

However, the two-year home country physical presence requirement can be waived on these bases.

To waive this requirement, you will need to complete the DS-305. Relevant things to pay extra careful attention to on the form include:

  • Item 12, (which is about your SIVES Number, when your J-1 program was on Form IAP-66)
  • Item 17 (which has to do with the date you entered on a J-1 visa); and
  • Item 14 (if you have dependent J-2 children or spouse).

You will be asked to present supporting documents alongside your DS-305 and your reason(s) for filing for the waiver will be determined what evidence you will be asked to submit. The waiver filing fee is $120.

Learn about the J1 Visa Waiver process.

J-1 Visa Fee

J-1 visa fees vary widely among different program sponsors. However, there are some J-1 visa costs that are the same for all applicants. The DS-160 and SEVIS fee will cost you $160 and $180 respectively.

If you want to get a J-1 visa waiver, you will have to pay an additional $120 for the DS-305, while the visa extension fee will also cost you $367 for a new DS-2019. In addition, nationals of some countries are required to pay a reciprocity fee as part of their J-1 visa application process; you need to check the Reciprocity and Civil Documents page on the DOS website to be sure if this concerns you.

J-1 Visa Processing Time

The J-1 processing time might not be the same for every applicant. However, the whole process may take you between 5 weeks to 2 months depending on the workload and staffing in the consulate or embassy you are applying from. The J-1 visa application does not allow for premium processing since it does not make use of the I-129 form, so you will have to stick to the usual processing time.

J-1 Visa Denial

Your J-1 visa application can be denied for different reasons, which include failure to file your documents appropriately or incomplete supporting documents. If the consular officer denies your application, you may reapply provided you can fix the issues identified from the first attempt.

Delay, rejection, or denial of a J-1 application usually occurs when you don’t adhere to the guidelines or if the consular officer isn’t convinced that you should be given a J-1 visa. In any case, you can contact your immigration attorney to advise you on the best action to take.

VisaNation Immigration Law Client Reviews Graphic 2

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Can I stay in the U.S. after my J-1 visa is expired?

You have a grace period of 30 days after you J-1 visa expires to stay in the U.S. After that point you are considered out of status and should be leaving the U.S. otherwise you can face consequences including potential future bars to entry.

In what situations can a visa interview not be waived?

They cannot be waived if you are applying outside of your country of nationality or residence or have been refused a visa in the past  (unless it was overcome or you received a waiver).

Can I bring my spouse or children with me on the J1 Visa?

They can come on the J-1 visa (children under the age of 21 and your spouse). If they would like to come just to visit like on a vacation they should consider applying for a visitor B2 visa. Note that if you do decide to bring dependents they must each have a DS-2019 form, and you should also have proof of the relationships (marriage certificates or birth certificates).

Where can I find my SEVIS I.D. number?

The i.d. number can be located in the upper right-hand corner of page 1 on your SEVIS Form DS-2019.

Is the SEVIS fee required if I’m currently on a valid J-1 immigration status?

No, it would not be required in this case. Also, if you are transferring to a new J sponsor, you wouldn’t need to pay the SEVIS fee.

How VisaNation Law Group Can Help

Get Started

Your J-1 visa application process must be handled with care. Any error in your application, either by omission or commission, could lead to denial or rejection during your J-1 visa interview. VisaNation Law Group has a team of expert J-1 visa immigration attorneys who are always prepared to guide you from the beginning to the end of your application process.